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4 Cool Things You Never Knew About Sam Raimi’s Movie “The Evil Dead”

The Evil Dead Poster

The original movie “The Evil Dead” was praised as one of the best horror films by the great Stephen King.  Like many filmmakers in the early days of horror cinema, bringing “The Evil Dead” to the big screen was a bootstrap effort by a group of creative friends with big dreams (and non-existent production budget).

If you have watched “The Evil Dead” a hundred times (and still love it like we do) you will love some of the behind the scenes little known facts about how the film was created.  While today, large production companies at Netflix  and Hulu are buying up quality horror screenplays for original series or content, horror filmmakers had a tough grind in the 1970’s and early 1980’s to break into mainstream.

Here are four really cool things that horror movie fans may not know about “The Evil Dead” and how Sam Raimi made the film his launching pad to fame and fortune (with his high school buddies).

1.  The Film Was Based on a Short Film Called “Within the Woods”

In 1978, Sam Raimi released a short film that was based on an earlier piece he had written called “Clockwork”.   That piece was his original indie horror film and was only 7-minutes long, and the plot featured a violent home invasion. 

During the 1970’s, horror movies were an obscure niche that most movie production companies would not touch.  There was no real fanbase for horror or proof that a movie with a gory script would fill theater seats and be profitable.

Sam Raimi wanted to write and produce horror. But he had to show movie executives that it was a viable art form. When he produced “Within the Woods” he called on two of his friends, Bruce Campbell and Ellen Sandweiss, and the 7-minute movie was shot on a budget of $1,600 (U.S.).  Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell were best friends, attending high-school together in Michigan.

To get his proof of concept in front of moviegoers, Sam Raimi begged a local friend (who owned a movie theater) to show “Within the Woods” as a double feature with “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.  It screened well with audiences and drew the attention of investors. This allowed Raimi to fund his first full-length horror feature, “The Evil Dead”.  The movie “Within the Woods” was bait for seed money; and it worked.  Michigan doctors and dentists were some of their biggest investors.

Fans of “The Evil Dead” series will notice the original homage to the haunted woods in this early movie.  Something Sam Raimi drew inspiration from when he wrote: “The Evil Dead” and the demonic influence inside the dark Tennessee forest surrounding the infamous isolated cabin.  Hardcore fans will also recognize many of Raimi’s signature film editing tricks shown for the first time in “Within the Woods” and his soundtrack techniques to build suspense and terror.

2.  The Cabin in Tennessee Was Actually Cursed?

The first full-feature movie “The Evil Dead” was filmed at an abandoned cabin in Tennessee, which actually did not have a dark history until Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell did some storytelling, to support the promotion of the original movie.

Recognizing that horror fans liked a scary story based in real lore, Raimi and Campbell created a ghost story about a man named Emmett Talbot and his family.  And a haunted and traumatized sole survivor of a massacre in the cabin named ‘Clara’ Talbot, who would return on stormy nights, wandering in a senile state.  Raimi and Campbell also wrote that they could feel eyes on them the whole time they were filming on location.  The things you will say to sell tickets; Campbell confirmed decades later that the story was promotional lore.

Today, the only parts that remain of the cabin where the original movie was filmed, is the stone fireplace and some of the chimney.  After filming was done, Sam Raimi is said to have burned the cabin down, claiming that it was actually haunted.  Perhaps the incantations used during the movie were legit (Raimi is a production purist) and he was afraid of what might actually have been released into the cabin, and the surrounding areas.  The official ‘story’ is that the cabin was accidentally burned down by trespassers who were having a party at the location.  We will never know.

The cast and crew of “The Evil Dead” have stated that they buried a time capsule in or near the fireplace of the old cabin, high in the Appalachian mountains.  It is now private property, but thousands of horror fans apparently flock to the site in Morristown Tennessee annually.  

Photo: Jess Bradshaw (Atlas Obscura)

3. The Film Ran Out of Funds and Bruce Campbell Saved the Day

In spite of every attempt to keep special effects organic (or homemade) in the movie, (oatmeal, guts made from marshmallow strings, and real Madagascar cockroaches from Michigan State University), funds ran out during production.

Bruce Campbell earned himself an Executive Producer title on the film, after he placed a large parcel of his family’s private land as collateral to borrow money to finish the project.  The high school friends dreamed for years of making the film and becoming pioneers in a new emerging genre.

https://youtu.be/lI4O-hELwIM

Sam Raimi reflected decades later that the hardest part of filming “The Evil Dead” was not set design, props, the fake-blood covered sticky floor (and equipment)  or managing the actors and script.  It was having to pause production and raise money several times to be able to finish the movie.  

The stop-and-go flow of production created another problem.  The movie originally began with a cast and crew of twenty (20) people, but the working conditions at the cabin and the authentic  stunts actually got a few people injured.  The original actors started leaving the movie and refused to show up on the set. 

Thankfully, the heavily caked movie makeup required for the Deadites (possessed character) at the end helped complete the production. Both Campbell and Raimi asked friends to stand in for actors for the final scenes to wrap the movie.  These stand-in friends and family are credited on the film as ‘Fake Shemps’ (a Three Stooges reference).

4. There Was Almost a Crossover With “Friday the 13th” and Jason Voorhees  

Fans of the “Friday the 13th” movies may remember that at the end of ‘Jason Goes to Hell’ there is a scene where the Necronomicon is prominently featured. Did the book look familiar? The prop was developed to be an exact replica of the infamous book in “The Evil Dead”.

Personally, we think that crossover would have been cool.  It would have opened the idea that all instances of demonic influence and supernatural emanated from the legendary ‘Book of the Dead’.  Unfortunately, when the two creative teams came together there was a dispute, where they could not decide if Jason Voorhees would kill Ash at the end of the movie. 

Since they could not reconcile the dispute, the partnership dissolved, and we’ll never be able to see Ash take a bite out of Jason with a chainsaw.  Was Jason really a Deadite?  We will never know.

Photo: Renaissance Pictures 

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Horror Mystery and Lore Scary Movies and Series

5 Cursed Horror Movies Based on True Stories

It stands to reason that when you make a horror movie based on a dark entity or malevolent spirits that some of that dark energy may be drawn to you or the movie set. It’s a risk that horror movie producers take especially when the horror film is based on a true story. These haunting tales come directly from actors, directors, and staff working on the movies themselves. It’s not just bad luck that cursed these movies it was everything from murder and near-death experiences to just plain creepy events – here are the top 5 cursed horror movies of all time.

Poltergeist Horror Movie Poster 1983

Poltergeist

This film is probably the most well-known cursed film in the world. Loosely based on a true story, the events that happened behind the scenes are just as strange as the movie itself. Death seemed to follow not just the actors that played in the first movie but also in Poltergeist 2 and 3 as well. Dominque Dunne, who played the older sister, was killed by her boyfriend. Julian Beck, who played Henry Kane, died of stomach cancer. The actress who played Carol Anne died when she was 12 from a mysterious illness before Poltergeist 3 was released. Will Sampson, who played the Shaman, died 3 years after the film was released. Then in 2009 Lou Perryman, who was in the first film, was killed in his home by an ex-convict wielding an ax. Lastly, Richard Lawson barely survived a plane crash in 1992. These deaths could be a coincidence but that’s a lot of disaster for such a small group of people. If the true story was not enough rumor also has it the director Steve Spielberg used real skeletons in the muddy pool from the first movie.

The Amityville Horror – 2005 version

Based on real events experienced by the Lutz family. With the horrors the Lutz family went through it is no wonder the movie crew had some strange experiences. A dead body washed up on shore near the home that was used in the movie. Allegedly the cast and crew were awakened at 3:15 every morning while working on the movie. 3:15 was the time that the murders took place.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The Exorcism of Emily Rose follows the trial of a priest who conducted an exorcism and the girl(Emily) who died. It is based on the real exorcism of Anneliese Michel, who died of dehydration and malnutrition. Jennifer Carpenter, who played Emily, said during filming her radio would turn on by itself, in the middle of the night. It only played the song Alive by Pearl Jam. In fact, it only played a specific part over and over. “I’m still alive.” But it wasn’t just her. It happened to other cast members so often that they removed their radios from their rooms.

The Possession Horror Movie Poster

The Possession

The Possession is based on the true story of a Dybbuk box. During filming, they used a fake dybbuk box but strange things still happened. There was a constant creepy, eerie feeling on set. Light bulbs exploded and props caught fire for some unknown reason. So many strange things happened that when the current owners of the box asked if the film would like to use the real box, everyone vehemently declined.

The Conjuring

Based on a true story, The Conjuring is about a farmhouse that was haunted by a witch. Cast and crew members felt like they were being watched by a dark force. A crew member’s dog was often found growling at nothing but when filming was done, he stopped. A strange fire started on set for no reason. Actress Ver Farmiga said there were claw marks on the cover of her laptop after filming finished.

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5 Dangerous Things You Should Never Do With a Ouija Board

Ouija image

Head to any major retail store and you’ll probably find a Ouija board in the kids game section.  Next to Monopoly and Cards Against Humanity? Seriously?   Unless you are an occult practitioner or someone who has studied the paranormal, a Ouija board probably looks harmless, like any other board game.  

But talk to people who have had a creepy or downright terrifying experience misusing a Ouija board, and they’ll tell you that it is anything but. And there are a lot of stories out there that inspire some of the most bone-chilling paranormal books and horror movies.  We know many people who had the kind of experience with a Ouija board that was so bad, they will not even sit in the same room with one.  Even if it is in the box. 

The Origin of the Name and the Ouija Board Game

In the United States, spirit boards were used starting as early as the 1880’s.  There were spiritualist camps popping up all over America, but the boards were particularly popular in Ohio.  Four years later, a local businessman named Elijah Bond patented the ‘game’ and started selling it in stores.  An employee (William Fuld) named it “Ouija”.

There is a popular misconception that the word “Ouija” comes from the French and German words for ‘yes’ (Oui) and (Ja).  The origin of the name is a little more mysterious than that, but hotly disputed.  First, William Fuld indicated that the term ‘Ouija’ was derived from an Egyptian word, meaning ‘good luck’.   But this was more of a marketing thing; it helped him dispel concerns that people had about contacting the other side. 

Historians claim that Elijah Bond had a sister-in-law named Helen Peters who was a strong and renowned medium and spiritualist.  The story goes that they were using a spirit board together and they asked the spirits what they should call the board; it spelled out ‘Ouija’.  However, Helen Peters was also wearing a locket with a picture of a women’s rights activist and novelist named Ouida.  

The consensus is that the spirit saw the locket and had really bad spelling. 

After the game was patented by Elijah Bond, the sales of the classic Ouija board skyrocketed between 1920 – 1960 worldwide.  For the first twenty years, the board retailed at $150 which for the time was insanely expensive.  In 2020, that would convert to about $1,900.00 per board.   Only the rich and the elite could afford to talk to the dead.  Now you can find them for under $20.00, or at thrift shops (although we definitely do not recommend buying one used). 

There are actually over 20 different rules that occult experts identify as essential for safely using a Ouija board.  We are going to focus on the top 5 ‘what not to do’ with a spirit board.  And talk about some examples of what could happen if you do not follow the rules.   

1. Never Use a Ouija Board In Your Home 

Okay, so we know this sounds counterintuitive.  You bought the thing, and now you want to use it.  It make sense to retreat to your bedroom or maybe your kitchen table, light a candle and start using your Ouija board.  But this is actually one of the worst things you can do. 

Spiritualists and mediums, white witches and other paranormal practitioners and specialists are comfortable using a spirit board because they know how to block out spiritual influences, and malevolent beings.  You however, don’t have the experience to deal with an entity that comes through your Ouija board to make themselves comfortable in your home. 

The more personal your space is (i.e., your bedroom or your car) the easier it is for a spirit or demon to attach its energy to you.  We are pretty sure you know how that story ends, because just about every Ouija horror story and movie is based on that outcome.  So, don’t do that. 

2. Keep Talking to a Countdown Spirit 

You cannot contain the excitement when the planchette moves for the first time.  We all go through the same “Dude, you moved it” and “No man, I swear I didn’t” motions until we understand that we have actually connected with a spirit. 

But if your planchette seems to be counting down numbers, what do you do?  Say GOODBYE immediately.  Much like a nuclear bomb, the countdown on a Ouija board is a spirit who is attempting to come through the board.  And the ones that are strong enough to do that, are not always nice. In fact, they are dangerous.  Don’t keep talking through a countdown, or you may be heading to the paranormal danger zone. 

3. Dare the Entity to Show Proof (In a Rude Way)

In the movies, you know how the people using the Ouija board ask for some kind of proof that they are talking to a spirit? Something innocuous, like move the table, or make the lights flicker, or force the temperature of the room to become noticeably colder. We get it. You are excited that you finally have proof of intelligent paranormal life, and a chatty ghost.  

Asking for a few harmless signs is okay but understand that you are taking a big risk.  First of all, your average safe spirit (think Casper) does not have as much strength as a malevolent demon does.  And when you ask for a demonstration of power, you may bet more than you asked for.   And mocking a spirit is a definite no-no; it can flex and show you just how much power it has, and harm you, other occupants of the room, or start applying unwelcome influence that puts you at risk. 

4. Communicate with a Spirit Who Demonstrates the Figure 8

This is another thing that some horror movies get really wrong. The characters are sitting at a table, and the Ouija board seems to warm up, by making a figure 8 with the planchette.  Cool!  You connected right? Yeah, you did, but the figure 8 is a demonic sign that implies eternity, and more specifically, eternal torment.  So, if your planchette starts moving in a figure 8, immediately say GOODBYE.  You are talking to the ‘Dark Side of the Force”. 

5. Make Friends With a Spirit Named ‘ZoZo’

In 2009, an average joe kind of guy named Darren Evans posted a very public warning about using Ouija boards; in particular, he warned about a charming demon named ‘ZoZo’. After that announcement went viral, so did appearances of ZoZo on Ouija boards around the world.  

According to lore and testimonials from victims of ZoZo, he  begins with a figure-8 formation, and then rapidly pushes the planchette to spell “Z” “O” “Z” “O”.  The origins of the demon are thought to be Sumerian, or African, and he was referenced in the 1818 publication Le Dictionnaire Infernal (demon encyclopedia written by Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy). 

This celebrity entity likes to stay on top of the news feed, and is historically known for stalking individuals through spirit boards.  And because demons are clever, he also goes by the name ZaZa, Oz, Zo, Za and sometimes Abacus or Mama. 

He doesn’t play nice.  The internet is full of stories of possessions and terrified individuals who connected with him on Ouija boards and were not able to say “GOODBYE” no matter how hard they tried.  

One of the mysterious complications about using a Ouija board is getting rid of the thing.  You bought it (or received it as a gag gift) and used it.  You scared the crap out of yourself and now you want to get rid of it, so you can just throw it away right?  Not so easy.  The internet is also full of stories about Ouija boards sent to the trash, and mysteriously returning, with the planchette on top of the board. Even after it has been burned to ashes. 

Ponder that one, and maybe think twice before attempting to talk to the ‘other side’ unless you are one of those rare people that will actually follow every one of the safety rules.   You may not get a ‘do over’ if you mess it up. 

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Cinema and Television Inspired by Horror Author Richard Matheson

Many of Richard Matheson’s works went from page to screen pretty successfully–perhaps that’s part of the reason why so many people are familiar with work that he originally penned, but are unaware of the source of the story. After such a long career, one might hope that people would come to recognize your name, but it didn’t seem to bother Matheson, who seemed to only write for the love of writing.

The Films Based on Matheson’s Novels

I Am Legend (1954) is Richard Matheson’s most talked-about novel–it was such a success and inspiration to creatives everywhere that it was even adapted to film three separate times. The Last Man On Earth (1964), The Omega Man (1971), and I Am Legend (2007) all wonderful movies in their own right, just never seemed to capture the concept behind the original novel.

The Last Man On Earth (1964)

The Last Man On Earth (1964) Movie Poster

The dark tale of The Last Man On Earth takes place in a post-epidemic nightmare world, where a scientist by the name of Robert Morgan–played by Vincent Price–is the only man immune to a vampire plague which has transformed the entire population on Earth. This vampire society comes to fear Morgan, as he turns into a monster slayer. As a scientist, he studies the plague and ends up being able to cure one of them, by transfusing his blood into her. This upsets the vampire race and they end up killing him for what he has done to Ruth.

The Last Man On Earth on IMDB

The Omega Man (1971)

The Omega Man (1971) Movie Poster

Considered the second adaptation of I Am Legend to film, Charlton Heston plays Robert Neville, a man who is the only recipient of a serum that made him immune to the germ warfare between Russia and China. This caused him to be the only known normal human left alive and he lives in a gaudy, antique-decorated penthouse in Los Angeles where he roams the vacant city by day and fends off bloodthirsty (read: vampire) mutant scavengers. Eventually, Neville comes across a young group of healthy non-vampires, which destroys the idea of him being the last remaining normal human being.

The Omega Man on IMDB

I Am Legend (2007)

I Am Legend (2007) Movie Poster

The third adaptation of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, this attempt at the film follows Robert Neville–played by Will Smith–as the last man on Earth struggling to survive and fend off the infected victims of the vampiric plague. He’s a brilliant scientist who is meant to find the cure to a highly contagious superbug–something he is inexplicably immune to, as we find out later in the film. By day, Neville searches high and low for supplies, sends out desperate radio messages with the hope to find other survivors, and by night he hunkers down in his fortress of a home while attempting to find the cure to the virus by using his own blood in experiments on vampires he has captured. The horde of vampires is more intelligent than Neville realizes, however, and they take vengeance upon him after he captures a vampire woman who the alpha vampire is bonded to.

I Am Legend on IMDB

The Legend of Hell House (1973)

The Legend of Hell House (1973) Movie Poster




Adapted from Hell House by Matheson, into a screenplay by Matheson himself, four people with supposed extrasensory powers are hired to spend the weekend in a haunted house in order to gather evidence of the haunting.

The Legend of Hell House on IMDB



Stir of Echoes (1999)

Stir of Echoes (1999) Movie Poster

Tom Witzky lives a fairly normal life, he works in Chicago and lives with his wife and son, not believing in anything out of the ordinary. One night, while at a party, Tom and his sister-in-law, Lisa, get into a verbal debate about psychic communication and the power of hypnosis–he challenges Lisa to hypnotize him, so she does. She plants a post-hypnotic suggestion for Tom to be more open-minded and things begin to happen.

A Stir of Echoes on IMDB

Television Shows Inspired by Matheson

Matheson wrote several screenplays, including sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone, where he could simply pitch an idea and spur an entire episode.

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (2002)

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963) Screenshot

A salesman is traveling via plane after a recent nervous breakdown–after being told that he’s recovered from his issues–while flying, he begins to believe he’s seeing a monster climbing on the wing of the plane and damaging the engine. The only problem is, is that he’s the only one who sees it.

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet from The Twilight Zone on IMDB

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Horror Mystery and Lore Scary Movies and Series

Hoodoo, Horror, and The Skeleton Key

The Skeleton Key Movie Poster

A tragically underrated Southern Gothic style horror movie, The Skeleton Key (2005) has been given a bum reputation; a movie that is often overlooked movie within the horror genre, it’s actually worth watching at least once. Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson) is a confident, yet sweet-natured hospice nurse living in New Orleans who grows frustrated with the general lack of compassion and care that her patients receive from the home at which she works. This frustration leads her to find a new opportunity wherein she becomes a live-in nurse for Ben Devereaux (John Hurt), an elderly man whose health has rapidly declined directly following a stroke. The wife, Violet (Gena Rowlands) seems reluctant to have Caroline there, insisting that she isn’t the right fit for the job.

After a discussion with the family estate lawyer, Luke (Peter Sarsgaard), Violet finally agrees that since no one else will take the job, she’ll just have to settle for Caroline. After moving in, it becomes evident that there are disturbing things going on within this neglected mansion in the Bayou. Caroline only becomes aware of these peculiarities after the mute, wheelchair-bound Ben is found trying to escape the house during a storm. She begins to explore the house and comes across strange artifacts in the attic, where she was told Ben had been when he had the stroke that left him partially paralyzed. Suspicions further rise after she learns of the house’s mysterious past from Violet—that it originally belonged to a family that had lynched two African American servants that had a hoodoo room in the attic where Ben supposedly had his stroke.

Violet tells Caroline that the house still belongs to them, insinuating that their ghosts punished her husband for going into their sacred space, but that she refuses to let anything happen to herself. Caroline seems to never fully trust what Violet has to say and decides to investigate further by going to an authentic hoodoo shop to see what it’s really all about and find out if it’s possible for someone to recover after they believe that they’ve been cursed. Her distrust of Violet leads her to perform her own secret hoodoo ritual to try to reverse the state that Ben is in—which results in Ben regaining some ability to speak, immediately asking Caroline to help him get away from Violet.

Caroline walking down the hallway in The Skeleton Key
The Skeleton Key (2005)

It becomes increasingly clear to Caroline that Violet has been performing hoodoo on Ben and her growing belief that hoodoo is real causes her to try to rescue Ben from Violet’s evil clutches. When she’s unable to flee with Ben, she’s caught by Luke and it’s revealed that he has been Violet’s accomplice all along. The culmination of the movie comes when Caroline is somehow able to call 9-1-1, then her friend, where she proclaims that the hoodoo is, “all real,” before the line is cut. She inadvertently traps herself inside of a magic circle where it’s made clear that Violet is actually the female servant Mama Cecile and shortly thereafter, she turns on the recording of the Conjure of Sacrifice, which effectively switches their bodies.

It turns out that Papa Justify had previously been inhabiting Ben’s body and had taken over Luke’s body and after switching bodies with Caroline, Mama Cecile force-feeds Caroline (now in Violet’s body) a potion which induces the paralytic state that Ben had been in. The whole thing had been a trick to get Caroline to believe in the power of hoodoo—because after all, you must believe in hoodoo for it to work on you. Once emergency services arrive in the morning it’s also revealed that Violet had left the house to Caroline so that Mama Cecile and Papa Justify could remain in the home and continue their body-swapping plot as long as they desired.